Just three months after one Salt Lake City television station returned to DirecTV after a long absence, two others have been removed.
ABC affiliate KTVX-Channel 4 and CW affiliate KUCW-Channel 30 disappeared from the satellite provider’s lineup at 10 p.m. on Tuesday when their owner, Nexstar Media Group, was unable to reach an agreement with DirecTV.
As is almost always the case in these disputes, Nexstar claims that DirecTV is refusing to pay it what its stations are worth; DirecTV is claiming that Nexstar wants to overcharge, and that it would be forced to pass those costs along to its subscribers.
That was also the basis of the KSL-DirecTV dispute, which dragged on for nearly eight months — from Aug. 14, 2018, to April 4 of this year. But the situations are also very different.
KSL was a single station in the 30th largest television market, which is home to 0.839% of the nation’s television viewers. Nexstar is the largest group of television stations in the country — more than 120 of its stations in 97 markets, reaching 38.7% of the nation’s viewers, are off DirecTV. And those stations include dozens of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CW affiliates.
Nexstar has the kind of leverage that KSL did not.
Since legislation that went into effect in 1992, cable and satellite providers have been required to obtain the permission — retransmission consent — of broadcast stations to carry their signal. And that permission generally comes after the satellite/cable company agrees to pay for it.
The DirecTV-Nexstar negotiations are going on at the corporate level, so the management of KTVX and KUCW can only wait to hear when the dispute is settled.
Each side is urging DirecTV subscribers to call the other and demand a settlement. AT&T-owned DirecTV accused Nexstar of “holding viewers hostage.”
“This is the same old Nexstar playbook,” the satellite provider said in a statement. “They pull or threaten to pull their signals from customers of many distributors to increase fees for ‘free TV’ stations that far exceed their value.” And it claimed Nexstar is demanding “the largest increase AT&T has ever seen proposed by any content provider.”
And Nexstar is accusing AT&T of negotiating in bad faith and trying to use its enormous corporate clout — after its Time Warner acquisition— to force a settlement.
“A little more than a year after putting DirecTV together with Time Warner, AT&T appears intent on using its new market power to prioritize its own content at the expense of consumers,” Nexstar said in its statement, “and insisting on unreasonable and extreme terms that are totally inconsistent with the market.”